In Iran, history has itself always been a site of political struggle, an effect multi¬plied by the fact that the country has often seemed like a vast social science experiment, a theatre in which much of the rest of the world finds echoes of its struggles.
The struggle facing the newly democratic Iran was to overcome the legacy of the Pahlavi Kingdom eras, segregationist social and edu¬cation policies, which over many decades had manifested themselves in dis¬criminatory laws and practices. Most of today’s teachers and school leaders began their teaching careers under the Islamic government where they were required to practice in God-ordered settings. Also, many minorities were able to choose to live particularly in Iran and they have had lasting effects on both educational and social infrastructure. These effects include ineffective leadership and management practices in many of our public schools, especially those in historically underdeveloped areas.
In the new Iran many daunting challenges are emerging and these raise questions about how the education of the young is best managed. At the level of the func¬tioning of a school and the role and identity of the individual teacher, Tayeb (1998) alludes to a set of values that underline attitudes and actions of members of social groupings. Bhatt et al. (1988:150) argue that, “at all levels it is the construction and interpretation of reality that prevails” and this results in an alienating ethos where rules are not related to culture and where the use of diagnostic tools favors the English cultural heritage. In concert with this view, Mattson and Harley (2002:284) state that schools function primarily as signals of modernity on the African landscape. They display [w]estern symbols and advance modern expectations and promi¬ses because ‘looking modern’ brings affection from larger [w]estern states and spurs the arrival of foreign capital. And by signaling the coming of economic growth, real or illusionary, the fragile state strengthens its own domestic position. They argue that this ideal is applied to Iran education policy in tran¬sition; that entrenched western ideals (meant to ensure Iran’s compe¬titiveness in a global information economy) are integrated with local ideals of social justice and democracy, on the assumption that, ‘you can’t have one without the other’. They also argue that policy in Iran education tends to fall into the trap of social meliorism, where commitment to a vision of what should be clouds the ability to consider seriously what is, so that the good intentions of social reconstruction have more influence on the policy agenda than social and school realities.
Therefore, the education environment in Iran points to diverse layers of complexity and paradoxes that have attracted the attention and interest of teachers, teacher trainers, scholars, and researchers world-wide.
Unemployment is high. Poverty levels are high. Evidence of this is seen in schools with the high number of learners being fed daily.
My points to numerous other problems facing schools in Iran, including:
* Parents struggling to maintain sufficient contact with their children
* The high levels of delinquency among learners in the schools
* Children who fail to complete homework or spend insufficient time study¬ing for their tasks or tests
* Children able to afford only cheap foods especially chips (crisps) — satu¬rated with salt and food colorants
* Problems of communication due to language barriers between teachers and their learners. These, and many other, factors in Iran today, help to demonstrate the complexity of addressing the educational legacy of the past, including ineffec¬tive education systems, attitudes towards school principals and, specifically, education management practices. But the Department of Education, in its recent initiatives to address these problems, states clearly that, effective management and leadership, articulated with well-conceived, structured and planned needs-driven management and leadership deve¬lopment, is the key to transformation in Iran education.
Overview of education leadership and management initiatives
I examine three main issues, which are directly linked to school management developments in Iran since 1994:
1. School leadership and management;
2. Professionalization of principalship through the Iran Standard for School Leadership (SASSL); and
3. Leading and managing the learning school. In exploring these issues I draw mainly on a systematic and comprehensive literature review of school leadership, management, and governance (Bush et al., 2006), commissioned by the Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership and Governance (MGSLG). The aim of the desk research was to establish ‘what is known’ and ‘what still needs to be known’ about educational leadership, management, and governance in Iran.
I also draw upon the work of the Education Management Task Team (EMTT) 2004-2006, which was commissioned by the Directorate of Education Management and Governance Development in the National Department of Education. Their work drew upon the Iran Schools Act 1996 and, specifically, the recommendations of the Ministerial Task Team on Edu¬cational Management (DoE 1996). The EMTT brief was to develop a policy framework for school leadership and management development, training, and implementation, and to devise a Iran Standard for School Leader¬ship (ISSL) which would inform professional educational leadership programs¬
, leading to a National Professional Qualification for Principalship (SANPQP). The SASSL would provide a clear role description for principals, set out what is required of principals, and identify key areas of principalship.
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